Many managers consider themselves ‘lean managers’ without knowing the full meaning of the term. Lean management is not some designation you earn in school, like a doctor or lawyer. A lean manager is someone who has embraced continuous improvement, who inspires people to solve their problems and employ sustainable solutions. Ask yourself if you fit this definition?
Lean management for the aspiring lean manager
Lean management is a holistic approach to working that supports continuous improvement. What is continuous improvement? It is a long term approach to work, where the manager tries to attain small yet incremental changes in work processes so that the organization improves quality and efficiency. It is a systematic process to eliminate wasteful processes in an organization. Lean management is what helped Toyota become the largest automaker in the world, from a small company.
There is another approach to lean management. Here the lean manager tries to improve the flow in the system by a steady elimination of unevenness or mura. The focus is not so much on reducing waste.
Becoming a lean manager
To become a lean manager, the first thing you have to do is reorient your thinking to the change you want to attain in your organization. According to Mike Rother, a leading management thinker, to change behavior, a budding lean manager should focus on three things. The first is method. Specify the behavior pattern you want to achieve. Second, practice. Repeatedly apply the behavior pattern until it become second nature to you. Third, coaching. Guide other people to learn the method.
Alred Binet, a famous French psychologist who invented the first intelligence test says, ‘with practice, training and method, you can increase your attention span, memory, judgment. By following these steps, you will literally become more intelligent than you are now.’
Other traits a lean manager should possess
Lean managers also have to imbibe certain other traits. They have a critical role in engaging and motivating people to achieve a common goal. Lean managers must clearly define goals, create a path to achieve them, motivate people to walk the road and remove obstacles. Don’t forget that the most important asset for an organization are its people. Lean managers should pay attention to the shop floor because all value addition begins from there. They must also be customer focused. If you imbibe these qualities, you are on the road to becoming a lean manager.